Lewis Hamilton may have partied in Texas with his Mercedes team after his United States Grand Prix triumph but he has no intention of relaxing as he targets the title in Mexico next weekend.
His fifth win in six races since the end of August has not only propelled him to within comfortable reach of his fourth world crown, but also squeezed the vigour from rival Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari’s challenge.
As Mercedes celebrated their fourth consecutive constructors’ championship triumph following a Hamilton master-class at the Circuit of the Americas, four-time ex champion Vettel was left to admit he and his team lacked the speed to match them.
“We were not fast enough and that’s it,” said Vettel, visibly disappointed at failing to mount a challenge for victory once Hamilton had recovered from losing the initiative at the start and passed him on lap six.
He added: “Congratulations to Lewis and Mercedes…”
Vettel refused to concede that the title race is all but over – even though he smiled as Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff joked that “the fat lady is ready now” – and talked of doing all he can in Mexico.
But his body language had already betrayed the feeling that Hamilton’s ninth win of the season, fifth in six visits to Texas and the 62nd of his career had been a blow of near knock-out power.
Hamilton was not only dominant, but supremely so in Sunday’s eventful race as he controlled the pace and tyre-wear to perfection, larked around with multiple Olympic champion Usain Bolt and played to a big crowd that gave him warm support.
“It’s not done yet, but it feels great to be in this position,” he said.
“I am going to Mexico to win again next weekend. I am so proud of this team. Everyone has worked so hard and I am just privileged to be part of it.”
Vettel admitted he had been unable to suppress the irrepressible.
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“I tried to block him and maybe I could have done more, but on the other hand, he was just so much quicker than me and it didn’t matter. He had to much pace and I had the feeling he had more.”
Hamilton, who on Sunday started from a record 72nd career pole position, was the undoubted star of the show and will be champion again if he finishes in the top five in Mexico.
But he will have been aware also of the impact on and off the circuit made by the sport’s latest rising young star 20-year-old Dutchman Max Verstappen who raced from 16th on the grid to finish fourth.
It was third but a post-race five seconds penalty triggered the demotion of the Red Bull driver to fourth and the elevation of Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari to the podium.
That decision sparked a torrent of angry words from the Red Bull team with many observers joining in, Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda labelling it the “worst decision I have seen in Formula One”.
“He did nothing wrong,” said Lauda of the driver who had run briefly off the circuit in passing Raikkonen at the final corner on the last lap.
“These are racing drivers and we are not on the normal roads and it is ridiculous to destroy the sport with these kind of decisions.”
Verstappen blamed “one idiot steward” while his team boss Christian Horner blamed inconsistency and declared the decision as wrong and unfair.
The Dutch driver also said such decisions will “kill the sport” on the very weekend when Formula One’s new owners Liberty Media had showcased their plans for the future with more razzmatazz, concerts and celebrities.